Print Friendly, PDF & Email

EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Mental health and the floundering informal worker


Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Current events of national importance, Informal workers, ILO, UNDP, Census, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) etc
  • Mains GS Paper I & II: Development and management of social sectors/services related to Health and education etc


  • The theme of World Mental Health Day (October 10) this year is ‘mental health as a universal human right.
  • Informal workers: They are overlooked when it concerns mental health.





  • A certain totality of health to the realms of mental and social well-being and happiness beyond physical fitness, and an absence of disease and disability.
  • We cannot achieve health in its wider definition without addressing health determinants.


Mental health:

  • It is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community.


Mental Health Act, 2017


International Labour Organization (ILO) Study:

  • 15% of working-age adults, globally, live with a mental disorder.
  • Decent work influences mental health in a positive way
    • Unemployment, or unstable or precarious employment, workplace discrimination, or poor and particularly unsafe working environments, can all pose a risk to a worker’s mental health.
  • Workers in low-paid, unrewarding or insecure jobs, or working in isolation, are more likely to be exposed to psychosocial risks, thus compromising their mental health.


Issues in India’s informal workforce:

  • It accounts for more than 90% of the working population.
  • Workers often operate without regulatory protection
  • They work in unsafe working environments
    • endure long hours
    • have little access to social or financial protections
    • suffer high uncertainty and deep precarity
    • face discrimination
  • These factors further undermine mental health and limit access to mental health care.
  • Gender disparities are also stark: 95% of India’s working women engaged in informal
    • low-paying, and precarious employment
    • without social protection
    • suffering patriarchal structures and practices in their social and familial spaces.


Different studies:

  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), unemployment and poor-quality employment have consistently been detrimental to mental health.
  • The Lokniti group within the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies: interviewed 9,316 youth aged between 15 to 34 years across 18 States in India
    • It has shown that they are highly susceptible to negative emotions.
    • Youth unemployment is one of the highest in India
    • stigma around unemployment, significantly impacts their mental health.
  • ILO report: It highlights how young workers are shifting to more precarious and informal work,
    • accepting less pay and poorer working conditions
  • The State of Inequality in India Report 2022 observes that the unemployment rate actually increases with educational levels, particularly for educated young women who show an unemployment rate of 42%.
  • Half of India’s population is of working age and projected to remain so for two decades
  • The Census of India 2011 shows that 33 million elderly people are working post-retirement in informal work.
  • ILO on elderly employment in India, shows high poverty among them, in terms of economic dependency and access to financial assets.
  • Informal workers face mental distress due to accumulating debt and rising health-care costs, which are intertwined and mutually reinforcing.
  • Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) among informal workers in Delhi, mostly migrants, indicates that recovery post COVID-19 remains uneven among informal worker cohorts.
  • Keshav Desiraju India Mental Health Observatory, mental health and well-being are impacted by factors such as food security, access to livelihood and financial stability.
  • Certain schemes have received a higher allocation this year, others such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) have seen their funding slashed.
  • National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)(2021)reported: 26% of the people who died by suicide were daily wage earners.
    • Employment guarantee programmes can improve mental health outcomes.


What are the Initiatives Related to Mental Health?

Global Initiatives:

  • World Mental Health Day.
  • WHO’s Comprehensive Mental Action Plan 2013-2020
  • Mental Health Atlas.
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 3.4).

Indian Initiatives:

  • National Mental Health Program.
  • Kiran Helpline
  • MANAS Mobile App
  • Manodarpan


Way Forward

  • The absence of proper financial and health-care security among the working elderly can severely impact their physical and mental health, aggravating their vulnerability.
  • Social security can be: promotional, aiming to augment income; preventive, aiming to forestall economic distress and protective, aiming to ensure relief from external shocks.
  • Code on Social Security 2020 shows how glaring issues concerning the social security of India’s informal workforce still remain unheeded.
    • India should universalise social security, the current Code does not state this as a goal.
  • Informal workers, despite their significant contribution to national income, are perennially exposed to various economic, physical, and mental vulnerabilities.
  • India’s budgetary allocation for mental health (currently under 1% of the total health budget) has over-focused on the digital mental health programme.
  • World Mental Health Report 2022 observed, addressing mental health involves strengthening community-based care, and people-centered, recovery-oriented and human rights-oriented care.
  • There is an urgent need for proactive policies to improve mental health recognition and action.
    • This is critical in upholding the basic human right to good health, including mental health
    • Advancing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 3 on ‘good health and well-being’ and SDG 8 on ‘decent work for all/economic growth’.



Besides being a moral imperative of the Welfare State, primary health structure is a necessary precondition for sustainable development.” Analyze.(UPSC 2021) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)